COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Ships and aircraft from Sri Lanka and India intensified efforts to extinguish a new fire on an oil tanker off Sri Lanka’s coast on Tuesday, two days after the previous three-day blaze was doused, the navy said.
The MT New Diamond is carrying nearly 2 million barrels of crude oil and Sri Lankan officials have warned of possible massive environmental damage to Sri Lanka’s coast if the ship leaks or explodes. The navy had said the initial fire began in an engine room boiler but did not spread to the tanker’s oil storage area and no leak had been reported.
Navy spokesman Capt. Indika de Silva said the new fire started Monday evening and firefighting efforts were enhanced.
“The new fire reached up to the previous level, but it has now been contained, but flames are still there,” de Silva added.
High winds, extreme temperatures and sparks reignited it, the navy said in statement.
Ships, tugboats and helicopters from Sri Lanka and neighboring India were part of the firefighting efforts.
The fire initially killed one Filipino crew member and injured another, but the rest escaped uninjured. The tanker had 23 crew members — 18 Filipinos and five Greeks.
The tanker had drifted to within 20 nautical miles (37 kilometers) of Sri Lanka’s eastern coast before a tugboat towed it farther out to sea. The navy said it is now positioned about 30 nautical miles off the coast.